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Subject: Debacl on the Thracian Plains rss

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The Mountain
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Imperium Romanum II and the curse of over agressive play

Overview or the game is afoot
A multiplayer, multi session round of Imperium Romanum II came to an end for me with my aggressive style of play backfiring on me. I find this game to be a creditable feel of the ancient period, with 35 scenarios (33 plus 2 introduction) with each having a very different feel/optimal number of players, ranging over time from 88 BC (Marius vs Sulla) to 540 AD (Belesarius vs Justinian).

Point of interest. We refuse, even after multiple games, to introduce any house rules, though many others seem to have done so.

Scenario Specifics or how to pick a blanced scenario responsible for a quick loss
The scenarios were created with an eye to historical value rather than play balance so we were looking around for a balanced 3 player scenario and opted for Scenario 10: Septimus Severus v Pescennius Niger vs Clodius Albinus 193 to 197 AD, as it seemed to have a fairly equatable distribution of forces.

Lincoln played Albinus (the White) with his forces deployed in Britain/Gaul with me playing Niger (the Black) with forces from Byzantium east through Asia Minor and Syria/Judea and south to Aegyptus and Stephen caught between us. Interestingly, this scenario starts with no player owning the prime Italian lands (Italia, Cisalpina, Sicilia, etc).

Protagonists or Why does everyone hate me?
I had hoped that this might lead to early conflict between Steve and Lincoln but, alas (for me), it lead to early diplomatic relations as they split that rich area between them. So while I looked desperately for someone/something to attack in the early months (you lose faction morale if you do not make an attack during the campaigning season (usually Mar/Apr through Oct/Nov)) they had plenty of rich cities they could meet that requirement without ever entering into conflict.

Steve is a diplomatic genius, and was able to get good concessions from Lincoln while retaining a large enough force near Byzantium that I had no easy attacks. His placement kept my forces locked up in Thracia while he added to his empire as quickly as his armies could march.

Sit Rep or the pressures that lead to bad decisions

Niger starts with an economic/fleet advantage and a few more troops on the board than either of the others, though the troops are lower quality and unable to make amphibious landings in another power's provinces. So I was relegated to taking small potshots at cities I could not control to restrict my morale losses each turn while the two of them maneuvered in diplomatic joy to put even more pressure against me.

Byzantium (which was actually destroyed by the Historical Severus in this period and then rebuilt) creates an interesting dilemma for Niger. Niger has enough forces to hold it, probably through the first couple of years, but it did seem an alliance between the two could bring the forces necessary to reduce it in time.

Faced with a temporary advantage (much larger fleets, a higher number of troops in the area) I looked for ways to exploit that before the pendulum swung in the direction of the partnership. Adding to the pressure Niger felt was the scenario requirement that the Parthian activation be rolled against each month (turn) with them activating on a 2 or a 3 on a two dice roll. The Parthians are not a particularly large force (probably 20% overall strength of Niger) but they are very mobile and could cause some issues, specifically requiring up to 1/3 of Niger's forces being redeployed to deal with them.

The Move or judgment is not always sound
Deep into the second year/campaign season Steve moved an obvious trap force out to within reach of the forces at Byzantium. He parked them within supply range of his forces at Thessalonika but also within supply range of Byzantium, allowing me to move a large force against them, but also within range of a large portion of his remaining forces to neutralize my army should it have some measure of success against his bait. Limited intel is in effect in the game so I could only guess at the actual size of the bait force, a factor he took into account.

The game, like the period covered, has very hard outcomes to battles. Frequently one side is completely eliminated. I looked at the forces I had available in Byzantium and believed he had made an error. I thought if I could move a larger than expected force against his bait and get a good result he would not be able muster a large enough force to spring his trap. Looking at the combat tables I figured I would have 3 chances of completely eliminating his units even if it was at 5-4 odds, and better chances should his forces be smaller than I expected. I had a 1 in 6 chance of losing my entire force (with an appeal to deity option that meant even then there was only a 1 in 6 chance of me losing my imperator (a game losing result). Success would allow movement against Macedonia and then into Aechia & Epyris. This was optimal to me, as Lincoln had already deployed a decent sized force into A&E but my fleets had now stopped the quick reinforcements of those units.

Calculations or how math failed me at the critical moment

It looked like an opportunity to set the alliance back and get out of the narrowed options available while sitting in Byzantium. With at least a 50% chance of success and around a 10% chance of disaster I decided the time was ripe to change things into my favor.

The miscalculation I made, of course, was that I had other leaders besides my Imperator to lead this gambit. So in actuality I had a 50% chance of getting some increased advantage but a 10% chance of losing the game completely. Risk analysis should always take into account the things risked. And, in my over aggressive mind frame, I failed to do that simple thing.

I moved in and got the 5-4 odds I expected. A 130 point army of Steve's was now in 50% danger of being destroyed. I was ecstatic, seeing, in my Pollyanna world view, that nearly half his total forces would be destroyed once I rolled a 4, 5 or 6. Now I had been rolling HOT dice up to this moment. I had won 6 straight roll offs (the highest roll on 1 dice wins the roll of) with Lincoln and Steve. That is 64-1 odds to win 6 straight, so how could I lose against one more 1 in 2 odds. I could see Lincoln grimacing already as he saw the danger to his armies in southern Greece.

The Result or how the gods turned against the favored son
And . . . I rolled a 1. My entire army would be destroyed. But there is a desperation option where you can roll a single dice against the Appeal to Deity table and possibly get the previous die roll changed. That was part of my plan and I had a smug look on my face as I picked the dice up once more to change the outcome.

And . . . I rolled a 1. Imperator dies (they put a big enough risk into the Deity appeal table to make it non trivial risk).

Rationalization or how things that happen to me are clearly not my fault
So, even if I had taken another leader than my imperator into that battle the gods would have eliminated Niger for his temerity to ask for their intervention. The 3% worst outcome had come into effect. I was out of the game and Lincoln and Steve suddenly found themselves viewing the world as hostiles rather than in a diplomatic alliance.

Now, Lincoln is not the type to have taken that risk. Relying on even a 3% chance of losing the game to get a 50% chance at a decent advantage is much larger than he would take in a game that was only 14 or so turns into its 48 turn length. He is content to build over time. Steve is between Lincoln and I on risk taking and while he is not averse to taking a chance he did set that move up as a trap so he sees a well executed trap that lured me in.

The Question or a quick poll to make Lincoln or me feel better about our choices
What would you do? Is it worth a 3% chance of losing the game to get a 50% chance of advantage or is it better to wait the time and act more long term to retain your small advantage and look for options that don't entail a game losing result.

Poll
Given the limited intel offered in above would you make the attack at the odds described described?
Yes, the timid fools cannot be allowed a victory
No, I am smart enough my chance of winning never comes down to one move
Maybe, I only make, or suggest I will make, attacks based on my own analysis.
I refuse to take part in this poll, but want to mess with your mind by using this answer.
      41 answers
Poll created by Jimmy the Warmonger



(cross posted to the Denver Board Wargamers Blog
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M St
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I think this is simply the reality of many ancient campaigns. This isn't WWI where you push forward and back at a small segment of the front for years. Sooner or later you are gambling the empire on a climactic battle (and the reason you do it is because winning a small victory with a force you split off isn't going to help you if your main force loses). You can be a Pompeius, an excellent strategist renowned throughout the Roman world but in the end you have to face your Munda and see how the dice roll. (NB: the Romans had dice.)
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The Mountain
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That is the conclusion we came to as well. We were good with the idea of it coming down to a single all or nothing gamble, the question was whether this was the appropriate one. Obviously, in this case, it wasn't.
 
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Damo
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Jimmy the Warmonger wrote:
That is the conclusion we came to as well. We were good with the idea of it coming down to a single all or nothing gamble, the question was whether this was the appropriate one. Obviously, in this case, it wasn't.


Well, maybe.

Was it likely that the Alliance would hold true? For how long? Long enough for you to be an easy target for the eventual winner?

A 3-player game always (IMHO) plays as a 2-on-1 to some degree. Better to have a good odds chance at a blancing win, then a slow grind into defeat and paraded through Rome to the Circus.
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The Mountain
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Damjon wrote:
Jimmy the Warmonger wrote:
That is the conclusion we came to as well. We were good with the idea of it coming down to a single all or nothing gamble, the question was whether this was the appropriate one. Obviously, in this case, it wasn't.


Well, maybe.

Was it likely that the Alliance would hold true? For how long? Long enough for you to be an easy target for the eventual winner?

A 3-player game always (IMHO) plays as a 2-on-1 to some degree. Better to have a good odds chance at a blancing win, then a slow grind into defeat and paraded through Rome to the Circus.


That was my judgement, that the alliance would hold through my dismantling. Steve, being an expert diplomat, thought I might have tried harder to work that in my favor, but with the ease that they traded provinces and supported each others movements, I didn't see it happening.

Past experience had made me believe that if I could hurt either one of them very badly then their confidence in their alliance would be shaken and any strategies formed would be greatly weakened.

I don't regret going for it. As always, though, I do regret the sudden end to a great gaming experience.
 
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Scott Peuse
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You mean Pharalus? Pompey was dead by Munda. Great discussion. I would have done the same thing. If its one throw of the dice to take the initiative or slow dismemberment? I pick one throw of the dice.
 
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Paul Brown
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Re: Debacle on the Thracian Plains
Absolutely, take the gamble and throw the dice. I've just been reading a chronology of the War of the Roses and it seems the whole War was characterised by wild and improbable swings of fortune...if it was good enough for Medieval English Royalty (and Nobility) then I am sure it was good enough for the shakers and movers of Ancient Antiquity :-)

Rgds,
Dotar
 
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Robert Feyerharm
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Thank you for the summary, no matter the results sounded like great fun.

I cringed when you stated winning 6 straight roll-offs improved your odds of a 7th successful roll - a true case of victory disease.

Now if IR2 offered rules for resolving battles on a separate tactical map, your decision to accept the bait would not have been as foolhardy if you felt you were a better battlefield general than your opponent. As the rules stand it was a gamble.
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